Things I Want My Son To Know #26 ~ Hard & Soft Aren’t Always About Touch

There are times to be tough and times to be sensitive. There are times for rough and times for gentle. Don’t allow yourself to get wrapped up in tough; in the idea that you can’t express feelings or pain. There are times in life when pain is appropriate – a breakup, a death, any kind of loss. Expressing it makes it easier, being tough just festers inside. There are times to be tough when it feels wrong. People will try to con you, try to manipulate you, try to get you to do things you know are wrong. No matter how much you like them, care about them or want to be liked, be tough. But always be gentle with those less able than yourself, your pets, the disabled, the bullied. Don’t be so tough that you think everyone is trying to con you or manipulate you. Try to be tough enough to stand up for what you know is right and sensitive enough to see when the wrong is happening. Don’t be too tough on yourself, but be tough in pursuing your dreams. Be a strong man with a sensitivity for other’s feelings. Hard and soft aren’t always about touch.

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Things I Want My Son To Know #25 ~ Live With Humility

You are entitled to nothing.  If you remember this, despite the face that it may seem radical in today’s world, it will be much easier to appreciate what you have.  As a parent I certainly want my child to have everything he wants, needs or wishes for.  As a human I know that it is likely that life will most likely not go just that way.

To live with humility is to live with gratitude.  To live with humility is to do service without expectation of reward.  To live with humility is to experience the joy of what you can do for others without worrying about what they can do for you.  To live with humility is to listen more than you talk.  To live with humility is to put the needs of others before your own; to delay gratification. Pleasures delayed are often that much more pleasurable.

To live with humility is to be underestimated.  This sounds bad, like something to be avoided but, in reality, it is something to be treasured.  When you are arrogant and full of yourself, you rarely end up living up to the expectations of others. The good news is that when you live with humility you often exceed the expectations of others, often surprising them to your advantage.

Remember that you are just a small part of a bigger plan, a bigger world, bigger events. There is freedom in humility; if you are not in charge, not the center of everything, your are free to just be in your life and relinquish control of everything you truly can’t control. You will be surprised to find that, after all, a life of humility will bring you rewards and recognition in ways that you cannot imagine, in ways that are different than what you may have expected or hoped for. To live with humility is to be available in your own life and the lives of others wtihout your ego blocking your eyes, your ears and your heart.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #5 ~ Be A Man

That is a loaded concept in our culture. In the time of our fathers it meant things like always walking on the street side of a date so her dress doesn’t get splashed, and going down in a fight when someone slighted you, your wife, your girl, your family in any way. In many ethnic groups it meant revenge and in America generally it meant that men didn’t whine about feelings or express emotion in any significant way.

The world has changed a lot in some ways and not so much in others. You should still walk on the street side of a date and do old fashioned things like opening doors and at least offering to pay on a date. The other stuff is not so simple to figure out.

Fighting is not the first best way to defend yourself. If you or someone you love is wounded by words, then it takes a big man to ignore those words, reject those words and walk away from the speaker. If the wounds are caused by “hate words”, towards you or anyone, it takes a courageous man to speak up against those words, to refuse to allow hate speech to go unanswered. If someone violates what you believe in, it takes conviction to stand up for your principles. This last will be tested many times over in your lifetime. How you live your principles is one definition of what it takes to be a real man.

If you are attacked physically, use your mind first and then, if you must, fight back. If you can walk away from a fight, do it. But always defend those weaker and more helpless than you are. You have always stood up for friends or others you thought were being mistreated, never stop doing this; it makes a difference in the world, in people’s lives.

We have already talked about loving with all your heart. Be a generous lover (see your Grandmother’s advice!). Marry someone you would die protecting, that’s how you know its real; you will understand this when you have children because they are the only people you would choose over your partner if you had to make the choice. Protect those children fiercely and without reservation no matter what the personal cost; they will always remember that you did.

Make up your own mind about everything. Read, research, discuss whatever it is you want to know about and then make a decision. There are almost no irrevocable decisions in this life and you will make ones that turn out to be wrong. It takes a real man to admit a mistake, learn from it and move on. Nobody escapes mistakes but many people make the same ones over and over. Don’t just take the advice of your friends who probably have not done the research; or of anyone else unless you respect the depth of their knowledge. Have your own opinions and be gracious about listening to those of others, you might learn something.

Don’t be afraid to feel and don’t be afraid to show it. There is a time for emotions and feelings and a time not. Keep your feelings to yourself at work, most jobs value your intellect and your opinions about the job, not so much your feelings. In your personal relationships, let those feelings out, they matter and will make you a much more attractive man.

Real men love with open hearts and show it; real men use their brains and not their fists whenever possible; real men fight for what they believe in; real men are all different, not cut from some cultural mold that told them what to be. Real men are fully their own selves ~ so be a man.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #4~ Show It All The Time

You may have noticed that I am not good about days our culture calls “special”. I really believe that many of them were created by Hallmark and the flower companies to get people to spend more money on things they could get cheaper every other day of the year. The restaurants are packed, the card racks are empty, the florists are sold out. These “special” days, like Mother’s day and Valentine’s day; not Grandparents day, etc., are a marketer’s dream.

But I have learned, over time, that because our culture makes a big deal of them, they matter to people. It is, therefore, important to honor those days. Perhaps you don’t need to do it with the fervor of many Americans, which can be a little over the top, but I promise you your girlfriend will care if you don’t recognize Valentine’s day!

You should ask yourself, though, why the restaurants aren’t full of mother’s and sons or daughters all the time? Why aren’t men buying flowers to memorialize other special days, more personal to those they love. I bought your mother flowers on the 3d of every month for the first year of our relationship, because that day meant something to us; much more than Valentine’s day. Why aren’t we sending our mother’s flowers whenever we think of it? Or making the call to a grandmother just to talk? Or bringing our father’s breakfast in bed? These are the things relationships are built on; showing love for no special reason other than the love itself.

When my father was alive I learned to tell him I loved him every time I spoke to him, and to hug him every time I saw him. He never understood my need to hug him and he never hugged back. He never really understood my telling him I loved him, but at least he knew. And when he was dying he waited for me to sit with him, because he knew I loved him. When he was gone I had no regrets because I had showed my love, not held it captive for Father’s day.

It is important to make the effort to honor the “special” days that society has created for us. It is much more important to show people you love them on a regular basis. When you think of someone, pick up the phone, you never know when they will be gone. This is hard when we are all so busy, but a five minute phone call can mean the world to someone. A single rose on a Wednesday night can brighten up a whole week. So remember, love is not something you trot out and show off for special occasions; show it all the time.

Things Your Rabbi & Rebbetzin Want You To Know #1 ~ Tikkun Olam

Dear Jake,
Congratulations on your graduation from High School. The following is our advice to you!

We would say to you to be realistic about your expectations. Do not be disappointed if you do not become an astronaut, social workers do valuable work. Do not worry if you do not invent a lifesaving medication, perhaps you will, one day instead, give life to a baby.

All of us start with great expectations and high ideals. If you keep your ideals, the expectations will fall into place. It does not matter how high you rise in the world’s estimation as long as you do not get above yourself. All of us have entered into this world the same way, and all of us will leave it in the same way too. It is what we do with the time allocated to us that matters.

Remember that education is a privilege and privileges bring responsibilities. We do not expect you to do away with the draught in Africa, or poverty in the world, but it would good if you could help one starving family, or do your little part in preserving the world’s natural resources.

In Judaism, we say that when it is time for a person to depart this world, the best thing that can be said about that person is not the amount of money he had, or how successful his business was, or the number of cars he had, or houses, but that he had a “Shem Tov”, a good name. We ask you now to live your life counting not all of the great things you have, but, instead counting all of the great things you did to make this world a better place. Then you too shall have a “Shem Tov”.

Things Ruben Wants You To Know #2 ~ Give Something Back

I have done volunteer work all my life, and found it most rewarding. It seems worth it to pass this along; it is something you should know.

There are myriads of opportunities for volunteering: food pantries, The Salvation Army, visiting and perhaps playing games with lonesome residents of nursing homes – to name but a few. The Temple serves meals to the homeless; the shelter always needs help (the day is Wednesday by the way). You could just volunteer to serve at table when any charitable organization puts out meals for the hungry. If you learn some basic carpentry, you could volunteer with “Habitat For Humanity”. Once you obtain a degree, you could volunteer for the Peace Corps or Americorps. There’s Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Little League; there is reading is fundamental, there is tutoring kids who are behind and can’t afford help; there are victims of natural disasters and there are victims of poverty. You could continue your project of colleccting blankets for the homeless every year; you could collect shoes, or backpacks, or school supplies for children who don’t have enough.

Volunteering is very rewarding in the satisfaction you derive from helping others less fortunate than you are. You know that no matter how much you may wish to have, you have been very fortunate and should be very grateful. volunteering gives you tremendous opportunities for gratitude.

The opportunities are endless – the satisfaction is boundless.

Things I Want My Son To Know #22 ~ Express Yourself

There are serious conversations, there is chit chat and there is jib jabber; and there is writing. All of these are about words. For some people, words are sufficient for the expression of self, the expression of the truest and deepest feelings. But words, talking, writing is not enough for some.

This is not really about the kind of expression that results in dialogue, in a two sided or multi-sided conversation. This is about finding a way that allows you to get your feelings outside yourself; to show yourself without unbearable vulnerability.

For me its music. I love writing (you didn’t guess?) but I hold back in writing when I am writing about my innermost feelings unless I am sure nobody will see it. In music I don’t need to hold back. In music I can hide behind the fact that the words are someone else’s but I know in my heart they express perfectly how I feel. When I sing I can let loose in a way that I never do any other way. But… music doesn’t do for everyone what it does for me.

For some it is dance, there are people that feel that no matter how well or how poorly they dance, they can let loose in a way they don’t elsewhere. In fact, for those people, they don’t know that they dance well or poorly, they just dance for the sheer job of expressing themselves in dance.

For some it is in drawing or painting that they find this kind of freedom of expresssion; for some its sculpture, photography, film. You name it, there are those that find the expressions of their souls in it. And some people never find the joy of being able to express themselves totally, without reservation.

So I say, listen to all kinds of music, you never know where you might find your inspiration; it may not be in the music popular with your friends. Dance even if you think you can’t, and dance as if nobody is watching you, just enjoy it. Look at all kinds of art and photographs; watch old movies and foreign movies; expose yourself to things unfamiliar. We know you can draw, paint, design. Don’t forget that you are really talented. Don’t forget that you once enjoyed designing for yourself. Don’t forget you loved fabrics and clothing when you were young and nobody was judging you. Just keep doing something until you figure out what gives you joy. There are many different kinds of joy: there is joy in the love of a relationship, joy in friendship, joy in your children, joy in faith and joy in work that you like. But there is a kind of pure joy in finding a way to express yourself fully in a way that works for you; it doesn’t matter if anyone else every understands it, just do it.